Ploughing through the testimony FBI Director James Comey gave to the House Intelligence Committee on 19th March 2017, I came across an exchange he had with Representative Adam Schiff, which has gone entirely unreported and the importance of which has been entirely looked.
This exchange shows that the US intelligence community admits that Russian intelligence did not have direct contact with Wikileaks, and did not pass on the stolen Podesta and DNC emails to Wikileaks.
The exchange between Schiff and Comey reads as follows
SCHIFF: Are you aware that Mr. Stone also stated publicly that he was in direct communication with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?
COMEY: Same answer.
SCHIFF: Are you aware that Mr. Stone also claimed that he was in touch with an intermediary of Mr. Assange?
COMEY: Same answer.
SCHIFF: This is a question I think you can answer. Do you know whether the Russian intelligence service has dealt directly with WikiLeaks or whether they too used an intermediary?
COMEY: We assessed they used some kind of cutout. They didn’t deal directly with WikiLeaks. In contrast to D.C. Leaks and Guccifer 2.0.
SCHIFF: In early October, are you aware that Mr. Stone tweeted I have total confidence that my hero, Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. Are you aware of that tweet?
COMEY: I’m back to my original same answer.
SCHIFF: And are you aware that it was only days later that WikiLeaks released the Podesta e-mails?
COMEY: Same answer.
(bold italics added)
In other words US intelligence admits that the stolen emails were not passed on to Wikileaks by Russian intelligence. Instead it ‘assesses’ (ie.believes) that they were provided to Wikileaks by someone else, who US intelligence ‘assesses’ (ie. believes) was acting as a ‘cutout’ for Russian intelligence.
From the exchange it appears that both Schiff and Comey were aware of the fact, obviously because it is set out in the classified section of the ODNI report on Russia’s alleged interference in the US election, which Schiff as a member of the House Intelligence Committee will have read.
Julian Assange and Craig Murray insist that Wikileaks did not have any contact with Russian intelligence and were not given the Podesta and DNC emails by Russian intelligence. Comey’s exchange with Schiff conclusively proves that they are telling the truth.
What about the US intelligence community’s ‘assessment’ that the person or persons who passed on the Podesta and DNC emails to Wikileaks was a ‘cutout’of Russian intelligence – ie. an intermediary concealing his/her/their true identity – and what of Representative Schiff’s fairly transparent attempt to imply that Donald Trump’s aide Roger Stone was that ‘cutout’?
The point about the first is that an ‘assessment’ means that there is no actual knowledge but that there is merely a guess. In other words US intelligence does not actually know that the person or persons who passed on the Podesta and DNC emails to Wikileaks actually was a ‘cutout’ of Russian intelligence. It merely guesses that he/she/they was.
As to Schiff’s insinuations against Roger Stone, Stone was actually fired from the Trump campaign amidst much public acrimony as early as 8th August 2015 ie. a full year before the supposedly suspicious activities Schiff is talking about, which took place between August and October 2016. However Stone does seem to have had some sort of informal role in the Trump campaign thereafter, even though it doesn’t seem to have been a very helpful one.
In any event, to see the absurdity of Schiff’s claim that Stone could be some sort of ‘cutout’ employed by Russian intelligence, it is in fact merely necessary to see what Schiff has to say about him
The U.S. intelligence committee also later confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump praises WikiLeaks, says he loves them and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponents emails telling them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.
On August 8th, Roger Stone, a long time Trump political advisor and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in his speech that he has communicated with Assange and that more documents would be coming, including an October surprise. In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cut out Guccifer 2.0 and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence.
Then later, in August, Stone does something truly remarkable. When he predicts that John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published, trust me he says, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel, #crookedHillary. In the weeks that follow, Stone shows remarkable prescience. I have total confidence that WikiLeaks and my hero, Julian Assange will educate the American people soon, he says, #LockHerUp. Payload coming, he predicts and two days later it does.
WikiLeaks releases its first batch of Podesta emails. The release of John Podesta’s emails would then continue on a daily basis, up until the election.
What sort of a Russian intelligence ‘cutout’ is it who openly brags on Twitter and in the media of his contacts with Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0 – the latter supposedly the ‘public front’ of Russian intelligence? Given that by his own admission Stone was in contact with Julian Assange and Wikileaks, it is far more likely that he obtained his “remarkable prescience” about the imminent publication of the Podesta emails as a result of a tip-off from them. That is the obvious explanation, which has apparently been given by Stone himself, and there is no reason to doubt it, or to involve the Russians.
As it happens Comey’s response to Schiff (“we assessed they used some kind of cutout”) clearly implies that the US intelligence community does not know the identity of the alleged ‘cutout’, and Stone’s brazen behaviour makes it very unlikely he could have been that person.
The importance of all this is that though there is some very circumstantial and highly disputed evidence that the Russians may have hacked into the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, the Russiagate allegations also require that the Russians passed on the emails they stole from the computers to Wikileaks. If this was not the case then the Russians could not have been responsible for the publication of the emails, in which case the whole thesis that they interfered in the US election collapses.
It now turns out that the US intelligence community does not in fact know that it was the Russians who passed on the stolen emails to Wikileaks. On the contrary the US intelligence community admits the Russians were not in contact with Wikileaks, and it seems US intelligence does not actually know who was. Its theory it was the Russians who passed on the emails to Wikileaks it turns out is no more than a guess.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that the reason why the US intelligence community believes it was the Russians who passed on the stolen emails to Wikileaks is because it believes it was the Russians who hacked John Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers.
Whilst that is possible, the one does not follow from the other, and the first may anyway not even be true. After all the FBI has never itself examined John Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers, and the whole theory it was the Russians who hacked the computers depends on a guess made by a private company CrowdStrike that Cozy Bair and Fancy Bear – the malware tools used to hack the computers – have some connection to Russian intelligence.
In other words, it turns out that the whole foundation story of the whole Russiagate scandal – that the Russians hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers and passed on their stolen emails to Wikileaks – turns out to be based on no factual knowledge but purely on a chain of guesses.
That has actually been obvious all along, but it is interesting to see James Comey confirm it.